Published on January 24, 2008
Indian Cotton & Its Importance: Indian Cotton & Its Importance Cotton in India…: Cotton in India… India - Centre of Origin (along with Peru) India - Largest area in the world (8 to 10 mn ha – 20% of world’s cotton area) India - Second largest consumer India – Third largest producer (productivity low – 12% of world’s production) All 4 cultivated species of Cotton grown in India Historically, a subsistence crop – later became a commercial crop First Hybrid evolved in India (H 4) Nearly 60 million people employed in its production, processing and supply chain Historically….: Historically…. Dacca Muslin was famous the world over… Quality of Indian cotton was very high – absorbent, more durable, extremely fine, lustrous and soft Production was through short-stapled, hardy varieties 18th century – American cotton brought in; long stapled, not well-adapted to local conditions Production became geared towards (colonial) industry’s needs – cotton growers taxed in various ways; Indian spinning and weaving suppressed – raw cotton was however needed Khadi – symbol of the independence struggle Cotton Farming…: Cotton Farming… On around 8-10 million hectares 4 million cotton growers 70% are small and marginal farmers 60% under rainfed conditions Hybrids occupy 45% of cotton cultivation Long stapled cotton – 69%; short staple – 6% of the production Usually grown as a monocrop now Cotton Production: a treadmill crop: Cotton Production: a treadmill crop Hybrids taking over – dependency on seed companies increasing; now, GE Cotton Seed trade not accompanied by adequate regulation Pest and Disease incidence – very high Pesticide Treadmill Pest Management Paradigm – faulty Not enough input/output support Local Traders take over the produce Traders are also input and credit providers SUICIDES…. Pest Management with Pesticides: Pest Management with Pesticides 54% of all pesticides consumed in India are on Cotton, which is grown on just 5% of India’s land Economic implications Environmental implications Human health implications Body Burden Reproductive Health Damage Cancers Developmental Abilities of children Political implications The case of agricultural workers in Cotton: The case of agricultural workers in Cotton Pesticide Poisoning a routine affair Blamed on “ignorance/neglect of safety conditions” Girl Child Labour in Seed Cotton Production – about 60% of such seed is produced in Andhra Pradesh Cotton gives employment for sowing, ploughing, pesticide spraying, 2 weedings and 3-4 pluckings The textile sector….: The textile sector…. Khadi, Handloom, Powerloom, Large Mills (specific process or Composite) 1/3rd of India’s exports from textile sector and cotton is 60% of the raw material used in textile sector In the handloom sector, 12.4 million people are employed and 20% of India’s cloth production is from handlooms Low wages, high levels of indebtedness, under-employment, starvation etc., are common; Suicides too GM Cotton in India: GM Cotton in India The issues…. A quick look-back…: A quick look-back… 1989 – Rules to govern GMOs, under the Environment Protection Act 1986 In March 1995: permission to import 100 grams of Bt Cotton Seed given by DBT – the first violation? 1998: Permission for country wide field trials in 80 hectares – also to produce seed in 150 hectares 1999: Supreme Court case on violations and lack of biosafety 1999: Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka governments deny permission for field trials 2000: permission for large scale, multi-centric open field trials in 40 sites in 6 states 2001: One more year of field trials ordered on 100 hectares 2001: Navbharat Bt Cotton – spread of illegal/unapproved Bt Cotton 2002: Permission for 3 Mahyco-Monsanto varieties for commercial cultivation 2004: Permission for one more variety, RCH 2Bt for 6 states 2005: Several new varieties permitted for commercial cultivation – in all, 17 varieties Product & Environmental Risks…: Product & Environmental Risks… Cotton Seed oil entering the food chain – what possible effects? It is not clear whether studies have been done… Cotton Seed cake as cattle feed – what effects? Resistance of bollworm to Bt Cotton increasing: CICR – allowing pests to select for resistance – Is Refuge Cultivation Sound Science? Increased incidence of sucking pests – natural balance tilted Increased incidence of diseases like wilt/ “parawilt” in the Bt Cotton varieties, not present in conventional non-Bt hybrids degradation of soil conditions in a manner that subsequent crops like chilli and maize are affected – root exudations as well as leaf litter? effects on livestock and human health reported – skin allergies from external Bt sprays ? decreased presence of beneficial insects – reported by farmers – can these studies be taken up for only certain insects? No control over how much Bt Toxin that actually gets produced, how much is effective etc….how much of the boll should the insect consume before the toxin takes effect? How much damage by then? Recasting of Pest Management Paradigms needed…: Recasting of Pest Management Paradigms needed… GM Cotton as IPM Strategy? Re-casting the Pest Management Paradigm…: Re-casting the Pest Management Paradigm… Can’t be just at the seed or gene level Can’t be seen separated from other farm husbandry practices Can’t target just the damaging population…understanding the insect life cycle is also important and intervening at all stages Has Bt Cotton been ever tested against alternatives like Organic/NPM/IPM before a choice of technology is made and applied on a wide scale? Regulation of GMOs in India: Regulation of GMOs in India EPA, 1986 Multi-institutional – DBT, MoEF, State Governments… Several bodies to be set up like MEC, SBC, DMC etc…Not always in place Trials in a secretive, opaque manner – monitoring from government unscientific and non-transparent Findings from different studies show a range of ‘performance’ – decisions based on what? Regulatory Failures…: Regulatory Failures… Under EPA 1986 – several bodies and institutions involved in regulation Promoters as Regulators? Violation of legal procedures and rules related to approvals; further approvals given while matters are sub-judice with the Supreme Court of India Lack of scientificity in field trials and monitoring later on Conflict of interest in promoters and regulators often being the same institutions/individuals Falsification of data Lack of civil society participation in decision-making Extremely opaque functioning of regulatory institutions – no sharing of data No value given to independent studies Lack of accountability and liability mechanisms for failure Defying principles that govern the federal structure of state governments and central government, in decision-making Finally,…: Finally,… Role of Technology in Agriculture – Institutional Science Vs. Farmers’ Science Different Streams of Science – Natural Science Vs. Transgenics Social Policy and Science & Technology Policies (“Science Studies”) Does Risk Assessment and Management always apply? Are we in a position to anticipate all risks given that there is no control over the use situation?